86 : Policing The NHL Ice w/ Riley Cote

Riley Cote is a former professional ice hockey left winger who played eight seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers.  During his career, he was known as an enforcer on the ice.  Riley announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 28.  Most recently, he was an assistant coach with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL) for the past 7 seasons.  Riley is currently focusing on his Hemp Heals Foundation, which promotes sustainable agriculture, sustainable health and clean natural medicine, while focusing on a holistic approach to optimum health through the use of hemp.

I immediately felt a connection to Riley because both of us embraced the identity of being a “tough guy” in our respective sports.  Neither of us would think twice before throwing our bodies around to make a big hit, or in Riley’s case starting a fight. Going into this conversation with Riley, I strongly disagreed with fighting in hockey. In my mind, putting a ban on fighting would be an easy way to avoid dangerous and unnecessary hits to the head, without actually altering the essence of the game. However, by the end of our conversation I formed a much different opinion on the role that fighting plays in hockey.

“If you can instill fear into your opponent, and then someone feels dominated by you mentally, you own them.”

So what makes someone an “enforcer” in the NHL? An enforcer in the NHL needs to be fearless, have the ability to sacrifice their bodies and the willingness to fight anyone, no matter what the size. The role of the enforcer is to create energy in the arena, but more importantly to keep the peace out on the ice and keep everyone in check.  Riley says guys like him are few and far between in today’s NHL because the direction of the game is trending towards speed and quickness.  In Riley’s opinion, the lack of policemen out on the ice has actually led to more dangerous hits. A mutual respect exists between NHL “tough guys”, their teams and their opponents, even after getting their ass kicked.  “You can put guys in the penalty box all day long, but you haven’t really addressed the problem.” Rule changes in the NHL have also discouraged players to fight.  Riley explained how it used to be that you could fight anyone on the other team and you would both get 5 minutes for fighting, so there was no power play.  After the introduction of the instigator rule, the fight instigator gets 2 minutes for initiating the fight, 5 minutes for fighting and 10 minutes for misconduct. This puts the instigator out of the game for 17 minutes and their team down a man for 2 minutes.  The structure of this rule incentivizes players to turtle.  This comes into play when an enforcer retaliates for a cheap hit that was dished out by the opponent.  In that case the enforcer might be putting his team in a vulnerable position to serve their role as the policeman. 

“To me, a fight was like a goal”

Riley wasn’t always an enforcer out on the ice. He chose to start playing more aggressively while in juniors due to the fact that he was highly observant and aware of the guys who were getting the call up to the NHL. To make into the NHL, Riley knew he had to be aggressive and had to keep fighting in juniors. When talking about his NHL dreams while growing up, Riley said, “If I wouldn’t have done that [played as an enforcer], I would have maybe been a 3rd line American League Hockey Player.”  He achieved his goal of reaching the NHL, because he embraced the enforcer identity out on the ice.  According to Riley, he was top 3 in fighting in whatever league he was in.  A shift without a fight or a hit was an unproductive shift. Fighting not only caused a lot of wear and tear physically for Riley, but also mentally.  He felt like he was in a constant state of fight or flight.  Every game he had to be mentally prepared to fight someone, which caused a lot of stress and pressure on him, even when there wasn’t a fight. 

Riley has been a cannabis user since he was 15 years old and although he wasn’t always aware of the science based evidence of its benefits; he recognized the relief it gave to his anxiety.  Riley partially credits cannabinoids and cannabidiol (CBD) for his improved health after his playing days.  He also credits his current brain health to the use of cannabis throughout his career.  This experience has fueled the passion behind Riley’s organization called Hemp Heals.  Riley never expected to retire at 28, but he felt that he was always nursing something during every practice.  Looking back, Riley feels that his heavy lifting caused a lot of problems to his physical body.  He recommends that current athletes focus more on bodyweight, plyometric, speed & agility workouts, yoga and healthier eating. Riley noticed a huge difference after transitioning his active lifestyle to this format during his retirement.

In this episode Riley also talks about the huge change in identity he had after his retirement.  Removing the toxic and introducing the healing into his life aided in this transition.  This includes not only people, but food as well.  Riley endorses hemp seeds as a great source of protein.  Athletes need to think of their body as their moneymaker.  Just like how you wouldn’t put regular fuel in a sports car, you shouldn’t put low-grade fuel in your body because eventually, it will break down like a car.  Fortunately, athletes have many more resources today to optimize their health, such as sports performance coaches, wellness coaches, sleep doctors and sports psychologists. However, as a coach, Riley finds that most of the young guys still think they are invincible and don’t take advantage of these resources.  Going back to the car example, you can’t maximize your car’s longevity by only taking it to the mechanic when it is broken.  You need to take the car for its regularly scheduled maintenance to prevent problems down the road (no pun intended… see what I did there?).

During our conversation, I was very curious to learn about what preparation went into a fight, how a fight is started, and how a winner of a fight is determined.  Riley explains these dynamics in detail during the interview.  Although Riley said he wasn’t a technical fighter, he still trained Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Standup Greco-Roman wrestling techniques.  The fights themselves could happen as simply as just asking an opposing player to fight.  It’s not always that easy, though. If the other player refused, Riley would sometimes have to force the fight.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the fight starts because there will always be the adrenaline factor and an energized atmosphere in the arena.  When it comes to determining a winner there is often a big difference between the crowd and the players take on the outcome. No matter the outcome, no one wants to see each other badly injured.  According to Riley, inflicting injury is not the objective of a hockey fight.  Riley stated that he never wanted to put someone out of a game or even a practice because of a fight but injuries, and sometimes-serious ones do occur.

Some of Riley’s Injuries throughout his career, where he averaged one surgery a year, included:

  • Two knee injuries

  • Two separated shoulders

  • Torn wrist and Finger Tendon

  • Two eye surgeries (I later ask about the stigma associated with eye shields in the NHL)

  • Two nose surgeries

  • Broken foot

Riley described himself as a fringe-roster player, which pressured him to play through many of these injuries because he knew he couldn’t give up his spot.

The one possible regret that Riley has from his hockey career is that he wished he did a little more hockey playing and a little less fighting.  His advice to upcoming NHL “tough guys” is to work on your hockey skills because there is not much room for players like him anymore.  Although it is easy to demonize fighting as it’s seen as “barbaric” when looking at it politically, Riley believes something has to slow the game down to make the game safer. That something used to be fighting.  Fighting in hockey might not be as detrimental to player safety as we might think.  In this quest to improve health & safety in sports, I think it is important to think about ideas such as this to truly make the lasting impact we have set out to accomplish.




WEBSITE | music festival ticketsFACEBOOK | Twitter



Download Episode 86 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

84 : Blood Flow Restriction Training w/ Johnny Owens, MPT

Johnny Owens is a Physical Therapist who currently serves as the Director of Education at Owens Recovery Science. Previously, Johnny spent 10 years as the Chief of Human Performance Optimization at the Center for the Intrepid (See Video Below).  Here he treated service members, including Ryan Miller from Episode 79, who suffered severe musculoskeletal trauma. I heard Johnny speak at the AMSSM conference this past May in San Diego and was amazed by the incredible knowledge he was sharing on Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) and the implications it has for athletes recovering from injury.  Johnny has been published extensively for his work with BFR in the peer reviewed literature and his work has been featured on 60 Minutes, Time Magazine, NPR, Discovery Channel and ESPN.  I have no doubt many of the athletes who listen to this episode can benefit one way or another by adding BFR to their rehab protocol or training regimen.

As many of you know, I have been rehabbing from an Osteochonral Autograft Transfer (OATs) surgery I elected to have back in January of 2016.  I have been struggling with moderate to severe kneecap pain and atrophy  since 6 months out from surgery.  The pain has diminished greatly since working with Dr. Danielle Clarke over at Parabolic Performance and Rehab in Little Falls, NJ. However, when I heard Johnny talk about BFR at the AMSSM conference I first thought, I need to get this guy on the podcast and then thought, this could be a potential solution to my lingering knee pain! Johnny told me he thought I would be a good candidate for BFR training.

For athletes like me who can't build muscle through lifting heavy loads because it is painful, the anaerobic properties of BFR training have been found to stimulate a similar biological response in the muscle with much lighter weights.  In the above picture, I am performing a step-up with a slow eccentric descent.  Trust me, you have never felt muscle fatigue until you have tried BFR.  It's a deep burn (Insert Ron Burgundy voice).  The single leg squat on the Total Gym is by far the most difficult and uncomfortable, but after having limited use of my quad for over a year, it's also glorious. Since recording this episode with Johnny I have been doing BFR on my leg for the past 3 weeks at Edge Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine.  Considering the large number of physical therapy practices in my area, most of them do not have Owens Recovery System certified PT's.  You can find a list of certified providers in your area on Johnny's website.

Since working with Lawrence and Johanns at Edge, I can definitely feel a big difference in the strength of my left leg. Normally when I go out for a ride on my road bike or do some intervals on an Assault Bike, my non-surgically repaired right leg feels like it is doing all the work.  However, I feel much more symmetrical in the last couple rides and workouts I have done. I am excited to see the progress in the coming weeks.  Keep an eye out for some videos on social media of my BFR training.

Below you will find notes on my interview with the BFR legend himself, Johnny Owens:

  • BFR is an individualized tourniquet system and is meant to reduce blood flow into an extremity.

  • If you are able to exercise at a low blood flow, you can use lighter weights to get similar results that you would expect from lifting heavy weights.

  • BFR isn't as new of an idea as you might think.

    • Early physiology studies from decades ago look into anaerobic muscle response.

    • Yoshiaki Sato noticed bigger pump effect with BFR.

  • Population

    • Perfect for person recovering from injury because those patients cant handle heavy loads.

    • Geriatric population.

    • Battling sarcopenia after 50, body doesn’t respond to muscle protein synthesis.

    • Athletes in season, won’t beat up the body.

  • Both lower tourniquet pressures have an effect and high pressures have an effect.

  • Why not just use a tourniquet?

    • Clinically you can’t ignore the tourniquet literature.

    • Wide and tapered devices to avoid pressure gradients.

  • Contraindications list:

    • Cardiovascular compromised

    • Cancer

    • “Sick person List”

    • Young pediatrics

  • Certification process

  • The science:

    • Who wins?

      • lifting light or lifting light with a tourniquet?

        • Tourniquet

    • Johnny believes lifting heavy still wins overall, but not everyone can.

    • Increase in lactate

    • Growth hormone elevation

    • Proximal changes around the tourniquet

      • Ex. Quad gets so fatigued that the glute has to work harder

        • Downstream fatigue effect

  • Johnny’s work with Active Duty service members starting back in 2004

    • “The best and most honorable experience I had in my life”

    • Limb salvage population

    • Needed a strength and hypertrophy response and that’s where BFR came in.

    • What goes into the decision to save or amputate a limb?

  • Loading is going to make you bigger and stronger overtime

    • Once you are injured, the body goes haywire

  • Attitude is number one on the list in leading to successful injury outcomes

  • Identity struggles for athletes and veterans

    • How Psychologists and Nutritionists can help in this process.

  • It was hard to ever feel bad for yourself at the center for the intrepid.

  • Johnny's story of 3 ACL injuries:

    • Grew up in west Texas and was the son of a mechanic (That just sounds tough).

    • Played High school football in the same district as Permian High School from the Book "Friday Night Lights".

    • Eventually gravitated to soccer:

      • Blew his knee out playing soccer on a non-contact play in the rain.

      • Eventually re-tore the repaired knee.

      • Johnny talks about the evolution in ACL surgeries and treatments since his initial injury.

      • Got hit by a car and tore it a third time while at The University of Texas at Austin.

  • The third injury was an eye opener for Johnny, because he realized he couldn’t rely on becoming a pro soccer player.

  • Johnny's advice to athletes going through the transition to life after sports is, "what you do does not define who you are".

  • Why staying at the Center for the Intrepid was “Fail better” and how athletes should seek out non-health-hazardous opportunities that makes them uncomfortable.

  • The definition of toughness from the son of a West Texas mechanic.


WEBSITE | InstagramFACEBOOK | blog



Download Episode 84 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

80 : Fly'n Helmets, Retired All-Pro Offensive Lineman, Kyle Turley

Kyle Turley is a former All-Pro NFL Offensive lineman who played eight seasons in the NFL. Kyle was Selected 7th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1998 NFL draft out of San Diego State.  He played five seasons for the New Orleans Saints and a year with the St. Louis Rams before a serious back injury sidelined him for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He returned to football in 2006 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent the last two years of his career before announcing his retirement in December 2007. Since retiring, Kyle has focused his efforts in advocating for retired NFL players and is also an advocate for cannabis. Due to his strong belief in the medical benefits of cannabis, Kyle launched a CBD supplement company called Neuro Armor. Most recently he started coaching football at Riverside City College (Listen all the way through this episode to hear about the interesting and concerning athletic trainer situation at this school).

Kyle Grew up in the rural towns of Utah.  His father, John Turley played quarterback at BYU, so football was in his blood. Kyle describes his father as an American Cowboy who drove trucks while Kyle was growing up, and eventually became a farmer. In Utah, there weren't enough kids around to field football teams, but even after his family moved to southern California when he was 10, they didn't have the money to let him play. Despite this, he remembers playing football in the parks and in gym class, and frequently had coaches telling him that he could play in the NFL one day.

In high school Kyle struggled in school and that prevented him from playing football.  He was very into skateboarding and surfing at this time and excelled in both wrestling and baseball (Kyle described baseball as a "hang-out sport." This part of the interview made me laugh).  When Kyle got to his senior year his Dad mentioned that this would be his last chance to give football a try.  In addition to not having the grades to play before his senior season, Kyle was also slightly afraid of getting injured, especially being a self-described "skinny surfer skater kid" at the time. 

Kyle obviously had a very successful senior year on the defensive line, which ultimately led to him receiving a scholarship to San Diego State University.  He credits his success to the skills and confidence wrestling gave him. Kyle's wrestling coach was also the d-line coach and told him told him to go get the ball and make sure your jersey shows up on film around the ball every play and he would get a scholarship.  This reminded me my interview with David Milewski in Episode 72, because its amazing what you can do as an athlete when you keep things simple and bust your ass.

“There is no way to change the game, it is going to happen” 

To this day the intangibles that Kyle looks for in his players at Riverside City College are positive attitudes and a willingness to learn.  Side note: I asked Kyle if he coaches football differently due to what his body has gone through and said “There is no way to change the game, it is going to happen."  That being the case, he said if he could go back, he would cut out some of the unnecessary "extracurricular" hitting he did.  Kyle embodied this mindset in his playing days and it served him well when he ended up redshirting in his freshman season at San Diego State.  Kyle was brought in as a DE/OLB and was frequently helping out the team by running scout team.  Fortunately or unfortunately for Kyle, he really excelled on the scout team offensive line. After his freshman year, a new coaching regime was brought in and during our conversation, Kyle takes us through the moment that he officially moved to the offensive line.  The new o-line coach who played 17 years in the NFL was introduced at a team meeting and Kyle felt an immediate connection. 

Photo : Passthemike.com

Photo : Passthemike.com

While in college, Kyle dislocated his knee cap during a spring practice after getting his leg rolled onto by another player.  We talked about the mental and emotional toll this type of injury had on him, but also how he was determined to prove everyone wrong and the injury wrong.  Kyle played his senior season despite having teams think of him as a first round draft pick as a junior.  We then talked about the insurance policy top draft prospects can take out in case of future injury. After getting drafted 7th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1998 NFL draft, Kyle was lucky enough to remain injury free for his first 6 years in the league.  Kyle credits this health to pure luck. This streak ended when he signed with the St. Louis Rams and these injuries changed his life, not just his football career.  Specifically Kyle suffered a severe concussion, which left him unconscious and disoriented.  In this episode, Kyle takes us through the protocol, or lack thereof at that time in the NFL.  Without going into the whole story, Kyle's wife had to flag down an officer at the stadium to bring him to the hospital.  The two of them got in the back of the police car, and doctors were astonished by a blurred mass that was presented on his scan. The next day they said he was free to participate in practice and he played the next week.  

"Your life is being active as an athlete, when you take that away from someone and to have pain and injuries on top of that, it's tough."

This is the point where Kyle's physical and mental health began to change for the worse.  We eventually discuss what Kyle's transition to life after football was like after a nagging back injury and an ankle injury.  In addition Kyle constantly suffered from vertigo and migraines. Pills were always the go-to remedies for these ailments and Kyle largely believes they are what led to his mental health struggles, which included suicidal thoughts.  The one thing Kyle would do differently if he could go back, would be to not take all the pills because they turned him into someone that he wasn't and left him feeling like he didn't have any control.   Kyle felt like a junkie by being on all of the pills, so he began to educate himself on medical marijuana.  Although he was afraid to use marijuana while playing football, today he credits cannabis for saving his life because it helped him get off his previous prescriptions.  He feels so passionately about the benefits cannabis has to offer to the world he launched the CBD supplement company, Neuro Amour (Cognitive Therapy Evolved, CTE). Kyle was nice enough to give me a sample of the Neuro Armour Extract and I can definitely attest to sleeping more soundly throughout the night.

Music has always been a part of Kyle's life. Every team he was on he would rent music equipment and he would play with his teammates during training camp.  He describes playing music as an escape from the daily grind.  Kyle recommends all athletes find a healthy escape from their sport from time to time.  When in college, he also found his escape in surfing.  Kyle dove deeper into the music world after his career, and we analyze some of the lyrics in his song "Fly'n Helmets" (Listen to his live recording below). Specifically we talk about the dynamics of the NFL and the NFL Players Association and how they treat retired players.  Kyle paints the picture of this dynamic by describing his last day in the NFL and I'm sure you will be as astounded as I was when you listen.

This was a particularly special episode for me because I have hit 80 episodes and also because it proves that if you have a vision, you can make anything happen.  I came across Kyle's story when I first started the podcast, and knew I needed to get him on the show one day.  I followed him on Instagram, where Kyle always posts the epic sunsets he sees from his back yard.  I always pictured myself doing an interview at his house one day ( not in a weird super-fan way ) and it actually happened.  Athlete or not, injured or not, if you see it and you believe it, you can undoubtedly achieve it!

WHERE CAN YOU learn more about CBD and Neuro Armour?



websiteINSTAGRAM Twitter | Music 

Download Episode 80 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud